Deal Ends Case Against Yoko Ono’s Chauffeur

It looks like things are looking up for Mrs. Lennon.  In addition to her birthday yesterday, it seems that a lot of her legal woes regarding her chauffeur have ended as well.  It seems that he has entered a guilty plea on lesser charges than previously agreed to.  It seems that this short, but dramatic saga is over. 

Now Yoko can focus on what promises to be busy year with a new album of collaborations (which is great by the way), and a remix album to follow this spring.  We have also heard rumors that she may be touring behind this latest release.  We will keep you posted. 

Here’s what we’ve read.

Nearly two months after Yoko Ono’s chauffeur accused her of destroying his marriage and his self-esteem, and demanded $2 million in compensation, prosecutors yesterday dropped extortion charges against him and allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

In a deal that the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Ms. Ono had agreed with, the chauffeur, Koral Karsan, 50, pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in the third degree, a felony, and was sentenced to the 60 days he has spent in jail.

Mr. Karsan was immediately released into the custody of immigration officials because he is in the United States from his native Turkey on an expired business visa.

But his lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said he hoped that Mr. Karsan would be allowed to leave the country voluntarily, with the option of seeking to return instead of having to be deported.

As part of the deal, Mr. Karsan read a prepared statement yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The statement was most striking for its lack of any expression of apology, regret or remorse.

It was, rather, a terse, three-paragraph accounting of the facts of the case. It ended with an admission that he had demanded not $2 million — the sum he actually asked for in what prosecutors called an extortion letter — but “an amount more than $3,000,” which is the amount of money that the law defines as the threshold for third-degree grand larceny.

“On Dec. 8, 2006, I handed Ms. Yoko Ono a letter inside her home located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” Mr. Karsan said in his remarks to the court. “The letter stated that I had been using hidden cameras to take pictures of Ms. Ono, and I had recorded Ms. Ono’s private conversations with her friends and family.”

The agreement capped a two-month melodrama in which prosecutors said that Mr. Karsan had threatened to release embarrassing photographs of Ms. Ono in her nightclothes, and even to kill her, if she did not comply with his demand for money.

Mr. Karsan had countered that Ms. Ono humiliated and degraded him, wrecking his marriage and making him so nervous that he ground eight of his teeth to the bone.

Mr. Gottlieb said that Mr. Karsan had not apologized because he believed that he had not done anything wrong, and that nothing in the deal reached yesterday prohibited Mr. Karsan from talking or writing about his experiences over 10 years as Ms. Ono’s chauffeur.

“There was nothing that happened today that restricts his right of free speech,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “We discussed whether or not he could, and whether or not he’s going to, and I can tell you that he’s of the mind that he ultimately wants the truth to come out.”

A spokesman for Ms. Ono, Elliot Mintz, said that Ms. Ono felt vindicated by the guilty plea and that she would probably have more to say about it after the Presidents Day holiday on Monday. Mr. Mintz expressed skepticism about Mr. Gottlieb’s assertion that Mr. Karsan reserved the right to reveal details of his experience as Ms. Ono’s driver.

“I would just remind Mr. Gottlieb that his client signed a confidentiality agreement,” Mr. Mintz said. “I have a feeling that Koral signed a very proper, very legal and very binding confidentiality agreement, and I would hope he adheres to it.”

An assistant district attorney, Anne Schwartz, indicated during yesterday’s hearing that Ms. Ono had agreed to the deal in order to avoid further invasion of her privacy. Ms. Ono, 73, the widow of John Lennon, lives in the Dakota on the Upper West Side.

“Although the people remain confident that we could prove each count of this indictment,” Ms. Schwartz said, “the victim, her friends and family and residents of the Dakota are interested in preserving the privacy of their personal conversations in their homes.”

But Mr. Mintz said that concern for privacy should not be interpreted as a message that Ms. Ono was afraid to testify in open court.

“I don’t think any of us looks forward to going to court and having to testify and all of that stuff,” he said. “But from the first action that she took I think she indicated her assertiveness. I assume there are some people who when they are the victims of a shakedown or extortion, they reach for their checkbook. She’s not one of those; she called the police.”

Mr. Gottlieb, however, said that Mr. Karsan was the one who had been vindicated because Ms. Ono had dropped the extortion charges, which carried a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Mr. Gottlieb said the deal was tantamount to an admission that the district attorney’s office had exaggerated its case against Mr. Karsan. “One thing that became very clear is that all the claims of threats to life and limb were just out and out lies,” Mr. Gottlieb said.

Mr. Gottlieb said Mr. Karsan was glad to have the case over before the wedding of his son, which is to take place tomorrow.

“He can’t go to the wedding,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “But I think everyone is at least relieved on the eve of the wedding that the specter of an extortion conviction and serious jail time is no longer hanging over anyone’s head.”

Source: New York Times

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